Thursday, July 29, 2021

Racist ‘iCarly’ Viewers Came for Laci Mosley - Hollywood Can Learn From Her Response

Laci Mosley was excited when she sat down for the video call that would change her life : During the virtual meeting with Ali Schouten (Champions), showrunner of the iCarly revival now airing on Paramount+, the Black Lady Sketch Show actor learned that her character would be a “fully developed” person with dreams and aspirations.

Actor, comedian and podcaster Laci Mosley.(The Riker Brothers)

“When we talked on the Zoom call, I was like, it’s mine,” Mosley told The Los Angeles Times.

But excitement quickly turned to hurt when Mosley became the target of racist viewers shortly after the announcement of her casting this spring. Based on the Nickelodeon original in which Miranda Cosgrove played pioneering web talk show host Carly Shay, the new version, which premiered in June, features Mosley as Carly’s best friend Harper. Mosley was inundated by racist messages on social media, including many that used racial slurs, from toxic viewers who complained that Mosley’s character was meant to be a “Black replacement” for Carly’s best friend in the original series, Sam Puckett (Jennette McCurdy, who has since left acting).

“She’s not a replacement of Sam,” Mosley said. “She’s not a substitution. She’s a completely different person. She’s queer, she’s Black — and not in a stereotypical way. We don’t even address her queerness as something odd. Harper never has a coming out. She’s just queer. It’s normal. No one cares, you know, and I love that about the role. But also, she’s really fun. She pushes Carly into doing crazy things all the time.”

While many of the posts have since been removed due to their offensive content, the pain the experience caused Mosley won’t dissipate as swiftly.

“I was shocked when a celebration of all the hard work we’ve put into making this reboot was overshadowed by the most racism I’ve ever experienced in my life over the course of 72 hours,” Mosley wrote on Instagram in May in response to the hateful messages. “I felt silly being so upset because I’ve been in this little brown body my entire life and racism isn’t new but it still hurts... Black is beautiful and no amount of slurs or vitriol you dump online will change that.”

Mosley’s experience is reminiscent of other Black women, as well as women of color, who have been targeted by fans of popular franchises, including Amandla Stenberg, who was the subject of racist attacks after being cast as Rue in the 2012 film adaptation of The Hunger Games, SNL alum Leslie Jones, who received a barrage of racist abuse when she was cast in Ghostbusters: Answer the Call in 2016, and Kelly Marie Tran, who suffered sexist and racist abuse against her and her Star Wars character. More recently, anti-Black Twitter trolls have even come after Beyoncé‎ and Jay-Z’s daughter, Blue Ivy.

Laci Mosley as Harper in the Paramount+ series “iCarly.” (Lisa Rose / Paramount+)

“I look forward to the point where being Black and getting a job in Hollywood is not a political statement,” Mosley said. “We are talented. We work very hard, a lot of times much harder to get where we are and we don’t deserve to be punished for that.”

Mosley’s response to the situation led to its own wave of attacks, and she suddenly found herself on the defensive.

Responding on Twitter to a TMZ video that captures her cursing at trolls, Mosley wrote, “I shouldn’t have been cursing in this response but I was really caught off guard by the onslaught of racist trolls. I deleted a lot of comments but they keep coming on every platform. Being a Black woman is exhausting. We all deserve better.”

Fans pointed out that such policing of Mosley‘s reaction to racist attacks is a form of misogynoir, a term used to describe the way Black women are uniquely discriminated against based on their race, sex and other factors, including their vocal tones.

Mosley credited the iCarly and Paramount+ teams for coming to her defense in the face of the bullying. Mosley said writer/co-producer Franchesca Ramsey made sure “to protect this character and protect me as a person in and out. She was one of the main people speaking about the racism and vitriol. Also, she made sure that we had a Black hairstylist and she’s done so much on every avenue as a producer to protect Black actors, especially.”

While Mosley felt supported during the ordeal, not all marginalized actors are so fortunate. Mosley wants other companies to step up in turn.

“I hope that more networks will take the lead of Paramount+ in standing up to their fans when they treat their Black cast members or their people of color cast members poorly like this,” she said.

Laci Mosley, from left, Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress in “iCarly.”(Lisa Rose / Paramount+ )

Still, despite the denouncements, Mosley said she still receives messages calling her a slur about “three times a week.” And while fans have become more supportive and some hateful commenters have apologized to Mosley, she explained that the Hollywood system will need to change if the work of Black actors, even the most prominent among them, is to be sustainable.

“I see John Boyega on too many Instagram lives fighting racists because he should have the support that I had,” Mosley said. “I’m so grateful for that because I know the actresses who have broken these barriers down for me in the past did not have this kind of support.”

Boyega, best known for his role as Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and his Golden Globe-winning role in Small Axe, has received racist attacks from viewers throughout his career. Last year, Boyega gave an interview to British GQ in which he advised Disney not to “bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side.”

The consequence of failing to support Black talent goes beyond the harm done to individuals: A recent report found that Hollywood is losing out on over $10 billion in annual revenue because of its poor record of Black inclusion.

While Black actors such as Amber Riley (Glee) have created movements like #unMUTEny in response to anti-Blackness in Hollywood, aiming to “end Black silence in the entertainment industry, hold power structures accountable for suppressing Black experiences and confront microaggressions with courage,” the experiences of Boyega and Mosley illustrate the long road to accountability and reform still ahead. .

“Black women deserve protection. We deserve care. We deserve to not be the mules for every single cause — and then when we need help and support, that’s nowhere to be found,” Mosley said. “Breonna Taylor deserves to be alive and her killers definitely deserve to be in jail. We’ve seen so many times Black women’s work is monetized, stolen from us, you know, and we’re abused. ... It’s time for Black women to get their share because Black women have been out here from day one fighting for everybody.”

Fans can catch Laci in brand new episodes of iCarly, streaming every Thursday on Paramount+.

From TheWrap:

‘iCarly’ Star Laci Mosley on Representation, Privilege and How Diversity Has Been ‘Weaponized’

"If you don’t see everyone, then it’s not a real representation of the world,“ Mosley told TheWrap

“iCarly” star Laci Mosley, who plays an openly queer character and publicly identifies as bisexual, revealed the Paramount+ revival broke her expectation that a Black, queer character would ever be represented in the show — and media in general.

“I grew up with lesser expectations of the world because I am a dark-skinned Black woman,” Mosley told TheWrap. “As Black folk, and as queer folks and as others, we’ve consumed popular culture and media and we’ve never expected to see ourselves.”

While Mosley said this expectation to see oneself reflected in media is rooted in a privilege that people of color, queer people and disabled people have never had, she also explained how limiting representation also limits the quality of the art itself.

“If you don’t see everyone, then it’s not a real representation of the world,” Mosley said, “and therefore your art is just not as good; it’s not as real.”

This understanding, however, is distorted through words like “diversity,” “inclusion” and “woke,” terms that Mosley says have been “weaponized against us by oppressors to seem as if people are whining about something.”

“In actuality, people just want to see the real world reflected back at them in the art they’re watching,” Mosley said. “That’s what diversity and inclusion is: realness.”

Mosley cited this understanding as critical race theory — a term under fire by right-wing commentators and officials.

“Critical race theory is the truth,” Mosley said. “People want to see the truth.” 

While Mosley thanks her grandmother for teaching her that she had value as a person of color, she says the biggest reward of “iCarly” has been hearing from fans who now see themselves reflected in the show.

Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” series, which ran from 2007-12, followed a group of best friends creating a webcast while grappling with everyday problems and adventures. The 13-episode revival picks up a decade after the original show ended, and stars returning cast members Miranda Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor and Nathan Kress, as well as newcomers Mosley and Jaidyn Triplett.

“iCarly,” which has already been picked up for a second season, is now streaming on Paramount+.


Originally published: July 9, 2021.

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